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Depression and Unemployment

When Herbert Hoover was elected President in November of 1928, Americans were generally optimistic. Many people believed that the prosperity of the 1920s, which felt rather like the upbeat 1990s, would continue indefinitely. The horrors of World War I were behind them, new conveniences such as cars, radios, and electrical appliances were becoming common, and new possibilities were opening up for women and small entrepreneurs.

The stock market crash of October 1929 therefore came as a surprise, and drastically curtailed a creative period of economic growth throughout the nation. In Wisconsin, people turned from sneaking bootleg beer into jazz halls... more...

Original Documents and Other Primary Sources

Link to article: The CCC tackles forest fires in Northern Wisconsin, 1934  The CCC tackles forest fires in Northern Wisconsin, 1934
Link to article: The Progressive Party is born in 1934  The Progressive Party is born in 1934
Link to article: The Sheboygan Press covers the strike in Kohler, 1934  The Sheboygan Press covers the strike in Kohler, 1934
Link to article: A farm family untouched by depression in 1933  A farm family untouched by depression in 1933
Link to artifacts: A miniature kit teaches mothers about safe homebirths, 1938  A miniature kit teaches mothers about safe homebirths, 1938
Link to artifacts: A block-print wall hanging from the Milwaukee Handicraft Project  A block-print wall hanging from the Milwaukee Handicraft Project
Link to artifacts: Flour and feed sacks become a State Fair quilt in 1931  Flour and feed sacks become a State Fair quilt in 1931
Link to artifacts: A hand-made prom dress  A hand-made prom dress
Link to artifacts: A Frank Lloyd Wright "dream house" made of paper, 1938  A Frank Lloyd Wright "dream house" made of paper, 1938
Link to book: Arts and crafts from the Milwaukee Handicraft Project, 1939  Arts and crafts from the Milwaukee Handicraft Project, 1939
Link to book: A WPA guide to Wisconsin's edible mushrooms  A WPA guide to Wisconsin's edible mushrooms
Link to book: Annual summaries of Milwaukee industry, 1919-1929  Annual summaries of Milwaukee industry, 1919-1929
Link to book: The Kohler Company celebrates industrial progress, 1934  The Kohler Company celebrates industrial progress, 1934
Link to book: A look at Wisconsin industry on the eve of the Depression  A look at Wisconsin industry on the eve of the Depression
Link to book: A report on unemployment relief in Northern Wisconsin, 1933  A report on unemployment relief in Northern Wisconsin, 1933
Link to book: A history and statistical summary of dairying, 1860-1931.  A history and statistical summary of dairying, 1860-1931.
Link to book: Kenosha men and women recall the Great Depression  Kenosha men and women recall the Great Depression
Link to book: The Wisconsin author of the Social Security Act appears before Congress.  The Wisconsin author of the Social Security Act appears before Congress.
Link to book: The federal government uses cartoons to explain Social Security.  The federal government uses cartoons to explain Social Security.
Link to book: The first years of Social Security evaluated.  The first years of Social Security evaluated.
Link to book: The new Social Security Act is explained by the federal government.  The new Social Security Act is explained by the federal government.
Link to book: A short history of prison industries, 1852-2002  A short history of prison industries, 1852-2002
Link to book: A Guide to CCC Camps in Wisconsin, 1937  A Guide to CCC Camps in Wisconsin, 1937
Link to book: How the Depression Affected Rural Wisconsin, 1936.  How the Depression Affected Rural Wisconsin, 1936.
Link to images: Images of the planned community in Greendale, Wisconsin  Images of the planned community in Greendale, Wisconsin
Link to images: Wisconsin officials cope with unemployment during the 1930's  Wisconsin officials cope with unemployment during the 1930's
Link to manuscript: WPA Project Cards (Dane - Douglas)  WPA Project Cards (Dane - Douglas)
Link to manuscript: WPA Project Cards (Waukesha - Statewide)  WPA Project Cards (Waukesha - Statewide)
Link to manuscript: WPA Project Cards (Pierce - Washington)  WPA Project Cards (Pierce - Washington)
Link to manuscript: Suburban high school students try to interpret Menominee culture in 1936  Suburban high school students try to interpret Menominee culture in 1936
Link to manuscript: W.P.A. interviewers collect stories, jokes and other Wisconsin folklore, 1936-1938  W.P.A. interviewers collect stories, jokes and other Wisconsin folklore, 1936-1938
Link to manuscript: WPA Project Cards (Adams - Burnett counties)  WPA Project Cards (Adams - Burnett counties)
Link to manuscript: WPA Project Cards (Chippewa - Crawford)  WPA Project Cards (Chippewa - Crawford)
Link to manuscript: Working-class women describe their jobs, 1938-1941.  Working-class women describe their jobs, 1938-1941.
Link to manuscript: WPA Project Cards (Dunn - Iron)  WPA Project Cards (Dunn - Iron)
Link to manuscript: WPA Project Cards (Jackson - Marinette)  WPA Project Cards (Jackson - Marinette)
Link to manuscript: WPA Project Cards (Marquette - Milwaukee)
  WPA Project Cards (Marquette - Milwaukee)
Link to manuscript: WPA Project Cards (Monroe - Pepin)
  WPA Project Cards (Monroe - Pepin)
Link to places: The Fox Theater in Green Bay (1930)  The Fox Theater in Green Bay (1930)
Link to places: The WPA-funded Herbster Community Center  The WPA-funded Herbster Community Center
Link to places: The Southport Beach House in Kenosha  The Southport Beach House in Kenosha

Primary Sources Available Elsewhere

Link to article: Arthur Altmeyer, "Mr. Social Security," remembered by Wilbur Cohen.  Arthur Altmeyer, "Mr. Social Security," remembered by Wilbur Cohen.
Link to article: A conversation between Edwin Witte and Wilbur Cohen  A conversation between Edwin Witte and Wilbur Cohen
Link to article: Why and how the 1935 Social Security bill was created.  Why and how the 1935 Social Security bill was created.
Link to book: Wisconsin Blue Books  Wisconsin Blue Books
Link to book: The government explains why Social Security was needed.  The government explains why Social Security was needed.
Link to book: The autobiography of John R. Commons (1934)  The autobiography of John R. Commons (1934)
Link to collections: Documents relating to child welfare organizations  Documents relating to child welfare organizations
Link to collections: Documents relating to high school life in Milwaukee during the Depression  Documents relating to high school life in Milwaukee during the Depression
Link to images: Scenes from Farm Security Administration offices in 1939  Scenes from Farm Security Administration offices in 1939

Related Links

Discover classroom resources available from our Office of School Services
Search our catalogs for materials on this topic that aren't yet available online.
Borrow books about this topic through our interlibrary loan service
Borrow manuscripts about this topic through our Area Research Center network.
Learn about other topics from our new book, Wisconsin History Highlights
Learn about radio, movies, art, and advertising in 1930s America
The Social Security Administration's "History of Social Security" Web site
Learn about WPA dollmakers in Milwaukee during the depression

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